Knit with Meaning: Crafting for a Cause

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Katie Sullivan is the University Minister for Catholic Social Concerns in Catholic Campus Ministry.

In the last few years, I’ve found myself doing a lot of knitting. Some of this knitting is definitely because a lot of people I know are having babies – friends, siblings, co-workers, you name it. Some of this knitting is because I simply enjoy it or want to make something special for a loved one. And some of it is because of Crafting for a Cause, our CCM program for students who want to knit or crochet things to donate to those in need and build community with each other as they knit.

In the process of doing all this knitting, I’ve discovered that when I knit, I keep the person I’m knitting for in my consciousness and hope that the love I’m feeling for them goes into the item. In this way, knitting is now a spiritual practice for me. Knitting with intention, as I try to do, has become prayer.

During the 2013 summer months, one knitting project in particular took on extra special meaning for me – a blanket I was making for my older sister, Keary.   She had been diagnosed with breast cancer earlier that summer, and I had decided to make her a blanket she could take with her to chemotherapy.

This blanket felt extra special; it was a big blanket and required a lot of yarn and every time I worked on it, I thought of Keary and put my heart into the project, essentially praying for her health and recovery. Yet, it somehow seemed to have more mistakes than usual in it.

When I gave it to her, and apologized for the many mistakes, she smiled and said, “Don’t you remember what Mrs. Samson [our former teacher who taught us both to knit] said about mistakes? They’re your love.”

I hadn’t remembered that little nugget of wisdom from the woman who had taught me to knit but hearing it made me happy because it felt so true. I had been thinking of any mistakes in my knitting as my signature (thanks to a friend for sharing that piece of wisdom with me). Now, though, I think I’ll look at any mistakes and see them as both love and a signature.

In a very special way, knitting, for me, has become prayer in its own unique way. What are some things that you do that have become spiritual practice?

Do you want to try knitting as a spiritual practice now? If so, please join our Crafting for a Cause group on Fridays at 11am in the CCM office (Suite 104 of the Lincoln Park Student Center).

A Parade of Casseroles

casseroleWorking at DePaul University I’ve learned a lot about St. Vincent DePaul the charity saint. While many others were doing good works during his time, Vincent was the first to organize charity in a systemic way. One of the first places he experimented with this was at a parish in Chatillon, France. He recognized that parishioners would respond when there was a neighbor in need, but that the person would be overwhelmed with too much attention all at once and so the good will was not put to good use – back then they didn’t have freezers to hold extra casseroles! So, Vincent began to organize the parishioners into small groups of people who would go out and do home visits to assess need and then decide together how to respond to it. In these visits, both the physical and spiritual needs would be attended to.

This practice continues today around the world with the St. Vincent DePaul Society and other ministries, where volunteers go into others’ homes. It is also happening right here in Chicago in my own St. John Berchmans (SJB) parish community thanks to the ministry of HOPE (Helping Other People Enthusiastically).

For the past few weeks my family has been the gracious recipient of the generosity of SJB friends who have brought us meals as we welcome home our son Theodore.

Typically I’m on the giving, not receiving end. At first my husband was hesitant to receive such generosity since “we” don’t really need it. When I asked if he was going to suddenly take up cooking as his new hobby and leave his newborn in order to go to the grocery store, he quickly changed his mind. Yes, perhaps we could use some extra help! It is a humbling time as we welcome with open arms a parade of casseroles and tasty treats to give us the endurance to push through sleepless nights.

There is something very intimate and sacred about inviting someone into your home, especially during a moment of need. People we see in the pews on Sunday entered both the joy and messiness of our life with a newborn. Some would stay and visit for a while, sharing their wisdom on parenthood. Others saw we had our hands full and just left instructions of how to heat the food.

The simple act of preparing and delivering a meal is profound way to continue to build bridges of solidarity together. We are grateful for the physical and spiritual nourishment we’ve received from the SJB community –the actual meals and the many powerful prayers that have made all the difference in our and Teddy’s life. Hopefully someday you will have the opportunity to join or receive a parade of casseroles too.

Joyana Dvorak serves as Service Immersion Coordinator with DePaul University Ministry when she’s not home on maternity leave with her son.

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

 

5 Pieces of Advice for DePaul’s Incoming Freshmen— From Last Year’s Freshmen!

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As the school year came to an end last month, I heard a lot of fellow freshmen saying things like, “I can’t believe how fast this year went!” Or, “I wish I could do (fill in the blank!) all over again.” A few of those freshmen were also talking about things they wish had known before they came to DePaul. So I gathered a group of these experts to offer their five top pieces of advice for DePaul’s incoming class. Here we go:

DON’T BELIEVE WHAT YOU SEE ON TV!

You’re probably not going to be partying all the time. In fact, if you try this, you’re likely going to watch your grades plummet. You’ll be out of here faster than you can say “This party rocks”. On the other hand, most college experiences aren’t spent under a tower of books either. Most students are able to balance their academics with their social life. But make some good choices because your first few quarter grades will really shape your overall GPA down the road.

MAKING FRIENDS IS TIME CONSUMING AND CAN BE DIFFICULT

The first week, particularly if you’re part of the Discover program, your whole floor tries to be best friends. This likely won’t last. Depending on your res hall, you will stay social, but most of your friends will come from elsewhere. Classes are small, which is great for individualized attention from teachers, but this does not actually help that much in making friends. Aside from group projects, you most likely won’t talk to your classmates much. Your friends will come from the communities you get involved in. There are tons of different clubs, sororities, fraternities, faith-based groups, and service groups. The more you get involved, the more people you meet and the less lonely the campus feels. And sometimes joining a group that just sounds interesting cannot only turn out to bring you great friends, but you might discover some new interest or passion.

YOU HAVE A LOT OF TIME – YET NONE AT ALL

Coming from high school means that most of you probably were really busy with classwork, extra-curricular things and trying to hang out with your friends before you all went your separate ways. That final year in high school is really busy with fourteen hour days being packed full. When you get to DePaul you will find that your time is really open. You’ll be wondering how to fill the hours and you might even miss the structure and business of high school. But don’t panic. Your schedule will get packed. You’ll need to make time for classes, studying, working, social life and the groups you join. Don’t forget to add in time to go out of your building for meals and try to work in some recreation. You’ll need time to work out the stress and tension. And then, before you know it, your calendar is packed and you’re back to fourteen hour days. So be particular about what you fill your hours with. Join clubs, go out, leave time to study, and maybe, just maybe, try to squeeze in some time for sleep…and set and stick to priorities.

BEING A COMMUTER CAN BE BRUTAL

While you may not have to deal with annoying roommates and awful meal plans, being a commuter is tough. It’s harder to meet people when you’re not on campus as often. While no one really likes traffic or trains, commuters inevitably come to loathe these things, though they are experts on navigating them. The truth is, though, everyone at DePaul becomes a commuter eventually because few people live on or even near campus after freshman year. Find friends to live with off campus, find friends who commute like you, find friends who can share the grind of commuting and enjoy your time at DePaul whether in the res halls or not!

THIS IS CHIBERIA

This past winter was particularly cold, but those from warmer states or maybe even those just not used to feeling lake-effect winds may not be prepared for winters in Chicago. Get yourself some waterproof boots, a real winter coat, a thick scarf, thicker gloves, a fuzzy hat (no matter how goofy you look!), grow some of that tough Chicago skin, and start praying for spring. The quarter system lets us skip the December snow, but as you’re waiting at the Fullerton platform the first week of January and shivering, you’ll realize that we got back just in time for two or three months of ice. Someone waiting with a bunch of people on the Fullerton platform said to one shivering group, “You live in Chicago? You’re a warrior. You know that? A WARRIOR!” Yes, yes, we are warriors. And the battle starts winter quarter.

WELCOME TO DEPAUL, freshmen! You are in for a great year…and it will fly by…and then YOU can share your advice with the next new class. Enjoy!

Lindsey Echito is now a sophomore at DePaul who put her advice together with other freshmen thoughts to offer this great advice.

Photo courtesy of DePaul DeBlogs